2016 Tour de France Saitama Criterium
Chris Froome: “I Have Developed a Connection with the Japanese”
Chris Froome, the three times winner of Le Tour, was part of the adventure for the first edition of the Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France and was even the first to write his name on its roll of honour with a victory in 2013. He has even confided to us that he has established a special link with the Japanese spectators…
Chris Froome, you have taken part in all the editions of the Saitama Criterium. What do you like about this event?
It’s very nice to finish off the season there, because the atmosphere is both relaxed and conducive to racing. The riders on Le Tour take advantage of this race to try something different, to experience exchanges on another level, far from other races more steeped in history.
Is it more of a human adventure than a sporting event?
Going to Japan, discovering its culture and sharing things with the many fans is a wonderful experience. I appreciate the fact that they are very respectful of all the riders and I’m impressed with their detailed knowledge of our sport and rolls of honour. Each time, it’s quite crazy to meet them and be able to give them a little taste of what the Tour de France is like.
As it happens, do you find that the relationship with cycling in Japan has developed?
We genuinely feel that there is a real appreciation there for the Tour de France. There are few Japanese riders on Le Tour, but cycling is developing and more and more people are becoming involved. They have helped to inspire a generation of young people who believe in their chances of participating in the Tour de France one day.
Is it your atypical route to the top that has lent itself to a strong personal relationship with the Japanese fans?
Perhaps I’m a fairly international and open person. My history is African, my roots are European and I feel very comfortable discovering the Japanese way of life. They grasp that I take pleasure in immersing myself in the culture of their country. That’s probably why they have a connection with me… because I have developed a connection with the Japanese! The cultural part of the journey, with the introduction to sumo wrestling or traditional archery, occupies an important place in the Saitama Criterium experience.
What’s more, wearing the Yellow Jersey at the end of October is the extra bonus of the trip…
I’m very proud to have won the Tour de France for a third time and finishing the year racing with the Yellow Jersey on my shoulders is both a symbol of my season and a form of recognition. I’m going to really enjoy this moment once again.